The Sunday Times (England), via Courier Mail (Australia), Dec. 29, 2002
The group behind what is claimed to be the first cloned human baby’s birth is a cult known as the Raelians that is obsessed with aliens, cloning and free love.
Claiming 55,000 followers in 84 countries, the Raelians believe aliens created life on earth when they arrived in spaceships 25,000 years ago, and insist humans were created by cloning.
The baby girl, nicknamed Eve, was born on Thursday and weighed 3.1kg, according to Brigitte Boisselier, head of Clonaid, a company funded by the Raelians.
But she gave no proof of the birth and scientists expressed scepticism at the announcement. US President George Bush said it reinforced the need for legislation to ban all human cloning.
Dr Boisselier said the baby was cloned from her mother and would be an identical copy of her.
She said another cloned baby would be born in Europe next week and three others by the end of next month, two from Asia and one from North America.
In one Asian case and the North American case, the cells for cloning were taken from a child who later died, she said. The child to be born in Europe would come from a lesbian couple. “There will be 20 more implantations done sometime during January.”
Clonaid would open clinics on every continent.
She said a freelance science journalist, Michael Guillen, would oversee the DNA tests to prove baby Eve had been cloned. Results would be out in about nine days.
Mr Guillen said: “I will be working with a group of world-class experts who will be doing all the testing, not me; I will merely be an observer.”
The Raelian movement’s founder, former French journalist Claude Vorilhon, who now lives in Quebec, claims to have seen long-haired, olive-skinned aliens land near a volcano in central France in December 1973.
The self-described prophet, who uses the name Rael, meaning light of god, advocates sexual freedom and claims cloning will enable humans to achieve eternal life and establish a civilisation on another planet.
Rael, speaking just hours before the announcement, said the cloned baby girl was “a major step for humanity, but it is the first step in the direction of the ultimate goal: the creation of life – or, more specifically, a 100 per cent synthetic being – in a laboratory”.
“Just as the Elohim (aliens) created us, we will now be able to create human beings in our image on another planet,” said Rael, a father of two, who claims to have been conceived on December 25, 1945 by a French mother and an alien.
He said the Elohim, whose planet is overpopulated, “must choose between making babies and reproducing through cloning”.
But in order for Raelians to reach the same technological level as their creators, Rael said, they must learn how to “clone in minutes, without requiring nine months in a mother’s womb and 18 years to grow to near-adulthood”.
Leading the Raelians’ cloning effort, which has faced a firestorm of criticism over the dangers and moral implications of human cloning, is Dr Boisselier, a chemist born in France in 1956. Her fascination with science blossomed at an early age, according to her official biography from Clonaid, the Las Vegas-based human cloning firm she runs.
She holds a master’s degree in biochemistry and doctorates in chemistry from the University of Dijon in France and the University of Houston, Texas.
She was a leading researcher for the industrial and medical gas firm Air Liquide before joining Clonaid. She also describes herself as a Raelian bishop, though the length of her involvement in the movement and her reasons for joining are unknown.
If confirmed, the birth could mark the start of a new era in human reproduction – the first time a child has not been the product of a genetic mix of mother and father, but the identical copy of one of its parents.
Scientists demanded to see proof baby Eve is a clone while government leaders expressed renewed concern about the lack of controls on human cloning.
In New York, a spokesman for UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan said: “No one should expect the secretary-general to send flowers.”
Stanley Hauerwas, a professor of theological ethics at Duke University, said: “The very attempt to clone a human being is evil. That the allegedly cloned child is to be called Eve confirms the god-like stature these people so desperately seek.”
The Catholic Church, which maintains life begins at conception, has condemned cloning because extra embryos are destroyed in the process.